Framing Political Correctness

I first heard the phrase political correctness (PC) in the early 1990s. Do you know its origin?

It refers to using language to emphasize people as human beings that have certain characteristics rather than defining them by their characteristics. I’ve heard it called “person-first” language, and that’s how I’ll call it. Here are some examples of obsolete terms from my childhood with their person-first replacements:

Obsolete Term New, Better, Person-first Term
Colored Person of color or African-American
Retard Person with mental retardation
Cripple Person with a disability
Schizophrenic Person with schizophrenia

I see the adoption of person-first language as an important advance in American culture. It’s a way to show that we appreciate our fellow Americans as human beings.

So why do some deride it as political correctness? This phrase invokes a worldview of  elites imposing an orthodoxy on people that don’t want it. There may just be some of this until person-first language becomes accepted everywhere.

The truth is that these groups and others often insist on person-first language for themselves. They don’t want to be called by the old terms that defined them as different from others and perhaps less of a person. It’s sad to think that courtesy could be so politically charged.

I think that when others talk about political correctness, progressives should talk about person-first language and putting people first. This is still a new idea to many, so please do so with kindness.

How do you think political correctness should be reframed? What have I missed?

P.S. One the tags that my blogging platform recommended for this post was “Geraldo Rivera!” How about that? Also “Georgia.” I’m scratching my head.

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